Rugby organizers set lofty goals for 2012

More than a month before the 2012 USA Sevens International Rugby Tournament in Las Vegas, its management set a lofty goal.

The event attracted 52,000 fans in 2011. In 2012, Dan Lyle wants to increase attendance by 25 percent.

As the executive vice president of USA Sevens, Lyle is pretty sure he can achieve his goal.

For the first time in 2011, the tournament was televised live on NBC. Lyle said 5.4 million viewers tuned in, which helped increase awareness of the sport and tournament.

"I think that will help with an uptick in numbers this year," he said.

Another factor that Lyle thinks will help boost attendance is an additional day of tournament play. Last year the tournament was for two days, but this year rugby fans can watch three days of matches from Feb. 9-12 at Sam Boyd Stadium, 7000 E. Russell Road. The international tournament features 16 men's and eight women's teams.

Of the 52,000 people who attended the event last year, 75 percent come from outside the Las Vegas market, according to USA Sevens.

"That's great for Las Vegas," Lyle said.

Tickets for the 2012 tournament start at $9 for ages 14 and younger and $40 for adults. Last year, half the attendees were female.

The average spending per visitor was $960 in 2010, when the Las Vegas USA Sevens began. In 2011, the average spend was $1,300.

And Crown & Anchor British Pub wants a piece of that spending. Last year, the pub's business increased by 40 percent during the USA Sevens International Rugby Tournament.

"It's huge," said Ron Schultz, the owner of Crown & Anchor.

The pub will have a food and drink booth at the tournament, which helps promote the restaurant to attendees.

"That's big for us," Schultz said.

After the matches, Schultz said many players come and hang out at Crown & Anchor to watch the RBS Six Nations Rugby Tournament taking place concurrently in Europe. With 30 international beers on tap and rugby on the tube, Schultz said, his pub benefits mightily from the local events. Depending on the match, the pub draws 100 to 200 people to watch.

"England is our biggest draw," Schultz said.

The USA Sevens international rugby tournament in Las Vegas is the fifth of nine stops on the 2011-12 HSBC Sevens World Series. The three-day tournament is the only North American stop for the Sevens World Series, featuring 44 matches. Tentative Sevens rugby teams competing are: Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, England, Fiji, France, Japan, Kenya, New Zealand, Samoa, Scotland, South Africa, United States, Uruguay and Wales.

Crown & Anchor is just one Las Vegas business that benefits from the event.

The Las Vegas leg of USA Sevens nets the organization a "several million dollar turnover," Lyle said. Last year the event had an economic impact of $20 million, and 18,000 room nights were booked in Las Vegas.

USA Sevens has "a couple" of years left on its Las Vegas contract, but Lyle said he has no plans to move the tournament when that expires.

"Sam Boyd fits our needs," he said, adding that Las Vegas is also a draw.

"Vegas is Vegas. It's on the bucket list," Lyle said.

Lyle said he's now busy closing sponsorship deals and marketing the event overseas and domestically.

"This is the time when marketing plans are in full swing," Lyle said.

Internationally, the USA Sevens markets itself though travel agents, social media, sports magazines and tour operators.

"In some other countries, it's one of the top three or four sports," Lyle said.

Based on last year's numbers, Lyle is upbeat about this year's turnout.

"We started this in the middle of one of the worst recessions, and people still came," he said.

The only real challenge he's experienced thus far is that rugby, at least in America, remains widely unknown.

"It's a sport that takes a lot of education," Lyle said. "It's kind of embraced as being cool, but people don't know it.

"You have to create the value proposition."

Contact reporter Laura Carroll at or 702-380-4588.